As Aromatherapists, we tend to focus on the therapeutic use of essential oils primarily for use in our bodies to treat a specific condition, malady, or emotional state. But certain oils are quite helpful as cleaners and disinfectants in our everyday environment. We all love a pleasant smell in our home, proven by the millions of dollars that people spend on short-term air freshener gadgets and gizmos for the bathroom, the kitchen, and even the car. The good news is that several reasonably priced essential oils can be used to clean and sanitize the home. Let’s explore what you might find helpful!

Before we delve into specific oils, realize that mixing the oils with water will require an emulsifier. Oil and water separate if put together in a spray bottle. For the most part, you will be spraying water as the oils will rise to the top. Shaking the bottle does not give you any even distribution. You must help the molecules “accept” each other. There are various emulsifiers available to help you that have a natural origin.

A Coconut oil-based Emulsifier is safe & easy to use as it is derived from coconut oil. Polysorbate 20 is also a mild emulsifier and can be used similarly to the Coconut Emulsifier. The emulsifier is mixed with the essential oil first, typically in a 1 to 1 ratio. Then the mixture can be added to water for a spray. Emulsifiers are not needed when mixing essential oils with carrier oils, only with a water-based product.

Emulsifiers are an absolute necessity for creating sprays, creams, and lotions for the skin.

Now, onto cleaning the home. An age-old cleaner that many of us have probably used is Pine-Sol. Unfortunately, most of the cleaners on the market have an artificial pine essence. Real Scotch Pine essential oil is distilled from the needles of Pinus Sylvestris. A dilution of Scotch Pine essential oil with spring water, emulsifier, and putting it in a spray bottle makes it a handy linen spray. (Typically a 1% dilution or less). American Indians used pine needles in their bedding to help ward off fleas and lice.

Pine trees in general (conifer trees such as pine, spruce & fir) are aromatic and derive this from monoterpene hydrocarbons, limonene, and the ever-powerful α- and β-pinenes. These compounds are also why pine oils are a good choice for heavier cleaning. Scotch Pine and Fir Needles are good for cleansing the home of bacteria, fungi, and various pathogens. Safe for most surfaces at a 1% dilution, you can see the difference a little pine oil makes in removing dust, grease, and films.

Other essential oils for effective cleaning come from the Citrus Family…..Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit. These oils are wonderful grease cutters and are great for mopping floors, removing heel streaks with ease. In addition, citrus oils are friends with hardwood and can be nourishing as well. But it does not take much. Once again, 1% is typically all that is required. A side effect is the bright, uplifting scent that citrus delivers, which can help our mood when cleaning the house!

Citrus crops tend to be sprayed with pesticides, and those molecules can accumulate in the peels. Therefore, Wild-grown and organic citrus peel oils are preferred for personal aromatherapy, especially for skin application. However,non-organic is considered safe for use in residential cleaning due to the higher dilution.

The last oil we will cover is Peppermint. Any of the botanical species are acceptable, either Mentha Piperita or Mentha Arvensis or Corn Mint Oil. Peppermint contains menthol and menthone, which are great anti-bacterial agents. One of the best uses in the home is to place a few drops of peppermint essential oil and dab it at the junction of kitchen counters and walls to dissuade ants or other insects from exploring countertops. Just a few drops are all that is needed on a cotton ball. The goal is not to have a kitchen that reeks of peppermint; the menthol is easily detected by invaders, so a very light application is typically all that is needed.

Peppermint has safety considerations as well because of menthol. Pregnant women, children under two years old, and anyone with epileptic tendencies should avoid Peppermint essential oil.

This is not a comprehensive list of essential oils that can be used to clean the home. Most oils have some form of anti-bacterial benefit, but they also have contraindications for repeated use. We will explore those oils in future blogs!